Killed by the Architects Return with the Existential Indie Rock Gem TABULA RASA

Las year, Chicago based musician Jamie Berkes hit my radar with his brand of New Wave inspired modern indie rock. With his previous release, I noted that fans of “Joy Division, The Pixies, Vampire Weekend, The Cure, shoegaze, [and] noise pop” were sure to find an artist they could truly enjoy in Berkes, who goes by the name Killed by the Architects.

The concept of being “killed by the architects” is mentioned in a few video games and is discussed on a few message board in the gamer community. However, it feels like Berkes is getting at something a tad bit deeper than just a love of video gaming. Instead, I think of the “Architects” as the “gods”, much in the way the term is use in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus refers to the alien being that they believe created man. Of course, the terminology and usage of calling a god an architect is found in a variety of religions and mythologies – including several Biblical translations of the Christian Bible. So… the name, as far as I can deduce, seems to play on the idea of the gods taking one’s life for whatever reason they feel like. Thus, the wholly existential sound and lyrics of Berkes’s music seems to really fit his chosen artist name like a glove.

On this new release, Tabula Rasa, Berkes continues to develop his sound, evolving in a way that feels comparable to the way Brand New did with the release of Deja Entendu or Modest Mouse did over the course of their height of popularity. With a sound and feel that still harkens to the sounds and artists noted above, there’s also a darker, post-punk feel that creeps in more and more, mirroring the existential feeling that permeates the entire album.

The album has slower, harder tracks and more upbeat tracks, but the tonal quality all seems to logically flow from one point to the next. For example, the opener – “God Complex” – really leans into that post-punk/indie sound with a stripped down aesthetic that feels even grunge inspired in its dark, yet groovy rhythm. And, while the turn from this track into “North/South” really swings upward as the second track feels far more akin to New Order than Soundgarden, the tempo change is anything but jarring. While seemingly abrupt, it feels both logical and welcome. As soon as the last note of the more oppressive “God Complex” strkes, “North/South” is a welcome upbeat reprieve. And, that upbeat feeling still include some cynicism and existential dread, much in the way of the brand of pop popularized by The Cure.

While each track is solid and one could easily sing the praises of this release track by track, it’s best listened to as full product. From start to end, it feels like a singular vision that has all the right peaks and valleys that a lo-fi indie rock release should. Whether the 90s emo feel of “I’m in Love”, the way “Seventeen” plays as a modern take on a Smiths song, or the way “Disciples” evokes the best of The Hold Steady and Craig Finn, the album really shows a wide variety of influence and an understanding of how to weave those influences into a sound all one’s own.

While the self-titled release from last year is what introduced me to Killed by the Architects and made me a fan, this more mature and developed sound is what will have me listening to Berkes for years to come. Listen above on the Spotify player or head to Bandcamp to listen, download, and support Killed by the Architects.

Justin has been running websites since his first Geocities site in 1994, but only did he ever start covering anything of substance years later. After he stopped regularly running local concerts in Northern NJ and the greater Philly area, he knew he needed to step up his writing game if he expected to continue to get free music to listen to. He writes regularly here and at Cinapse, as well as contributing to a few other sites on occasion. He likes music, film, the Philadelphia Eagles, the 76ers, talking about Criminal Justice, reading Intelligence Report, and his family... not in that order. His beautiful wife is far more talented than he is and his kids far more adorable... and crazy.
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